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Cheap and Healthy Eats: Repurposing Those Thanksgiving Leftovers

A picture of thanksgiving leftovers
Common Thanksgiving Leftovers. Image Credit: Wikipedia

Thanksgiving may be all said and done itself, but what still lives on is the food that was not eaten on the tummy-stuffing holiday.

As a college student who is more in charge of their own money, in order to save some dollars, you are already not a stranger to bringing food back from home to bring to your dorm or apartment. Some of the best parts of being at home are the home-cooked meals. That same happening of “fridge raiding” and “pantry shopping” while at home is more evident during the Thanksgiving  holiday. College students home for the holiday are sent back to school with leftovers, as there is ALWAYS plenty of extra food to go around.

If you’re like me, you’ll want to utilize all of the leftover food you’ve acquired from that delicious Thanksgiving dinner, partly because it is wholesome, tasty, and home-cooked, and mainly because it is FREE.  When I was growing up, after Thanksgiving was over, my mom was not up for wasting all of the food that was not eaten. I basically had a turkey sandwich packed for lunch everyday until Christmas. The turkey itself stayed good for so long because my mom froze it until she was ready to use it in meals. I never got tired of those turkey sandwiches too, as they were ten times better than the usual packaged lunchmeat I ate everyday, and they were packed with the flavor and love of a home-cooked meal. Also, my mom would add some turkey to soups or make casserole with leftover green beens.

Growing up eating repurposed Thanksgiving leftovers has extended into my independent life. It has always been a part of my meals growing up, and I yet to get sick of it. Now that I am more on my own, I continue to repurpose my leftovers, and have found more and different ways to do so (and it’s cheap because you already have most of the ingredients).

Also, during the fall and winter seasons, the heavy holiday eating of rich foods is the most prominent. You are more likely to eat the same unhealthy holiday foods on days other than the actual holiday. Since ’tis the season of weight gain, I have also  learned to make some of those repurposed leftovers a bit more healthy, too. Rich foods must also be  consumed with moderation, like with anything, but I again I have found ways to remove some of the guilt on some of my favorite holiday foods. College athletes like me on a budget can especially benefit from eating healthier repurposed thanksgiving foods, because we get a chance  eat well and indulge a little at the same time, as well as spending little to money.

Here are some of my favorite repurposed Thanksgiving meals:

Stuffin’ Muffins 

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a muffin cup pan with a an olive oil cooking spray. Gather leftover stuffing and divide it evenly among muffin cups. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the stuffing is firm and the tops are golden brown.

Thanksgiving Stuffing Waffle (This only works if you have a waffle maker)

Coat the surface of the waffle maker with your favorite cooking spray. Gather leftover stuffing, spread evenly on the waffle maker surface, and let it cook for 3-5 minutes. Pair with a scrambled egg, and enjoy!

Mashed Potato Pizza*

Pre-bake whole wheat pizza dough until the edges are set and browned to your liking, then spread that dough with leftover mashed potatoes, and sprinkle with mozzarella or shredded cheddar. Top with chopped up turkey bacon.

Thanksgiving Fried Rice*

Chop up leftover veggies, and then stir-fry them in olive oil. Fry an egg or two, chop it up, and add to the leftover veggie stir fry. If you have any plain leftover rice, add that to the stir fry as well. If you don’t, add cold cooked brown rice (you would have to acquire or buy the brown rice separately), and toss all the ingredients until they are coated golden brown and warm. Additional toppings can include chopped up leftover turkey or ham, and a splash of soy sauce.

Turkey Sandwich* 

What you’ll need is whole wheat sandwich bread or a whole wheat hoagie roll, the leftover turkey, and whatever toppings/condiments that you enjoy.

Turkey Noodle Soup*

This soup is similar to chicken noodle soup. To make it, you can literally throw the whole leftover turkey carcass into the pot to make the broth. And no worries if the carcass is already far gone, you can buy turkey broth from the store for fairly cheap too. Boil whole wheat egg noodles in water for 8-10 minutes until al-dente, or until your desired firmness. Once you have all the broth together in the pot, add chopped turkey leftovers, any leftover vegetables (string beans and carrots usually work the best), and stir in the pot on medium-high heat until all of the contents are heated thoroughly. Add the cooked noodles last (as they are already hot), stir all contents again for the last time, and enjoy.

Turkey Caesar Salad*

Buy your favorite salad greens from the store, and then top with chopped leftover turkey, Caesar salad dressing, croutons, and cranberries.

Leftover Thanksgiving Panini

Put turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and between two slices of sourdough (adding gravy is optional). Put the sandwich on a skillet and grill it as if you were making a grilled cheese.

Thanksgiving in a Cone*

Using 90-Calorie Reduced Fat Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough, mold the dough into a cone shape and rest on an upside-down muffin pan, with the muffin basins facing downward. You will need to flip the muffin pan upside down to achieve this. protruding side up. Continue to to make cones until there are no more muffin pan plateaus to cover. Place in the oven at 375 degrees for 11-13 minutes or until golden brown. Place the heated thanksgiving leftovers of your choice inside the finished cones and enjoy!


*Healthier options to food repurposing

**The key to these repurposed recipes is moderation! Most of them have been turned into  healthier eating options, but remember, it will always be rich Thanksgiving food!